Will Calls for Diversity Halt 11th Cir. Appointments Deal?

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We knew that the rumored deal had been struck, and that the bipartisan nominees were pending, and we heard some rumblings about diversity concerns a few months back.

Even still, the latest out of Georgia came as a bit of a surprise. On Monday, civil rights leaders called for President Barack Obama to withdraw his nominees for judicial vacancies in the Eleventh Circuit, particularly two nominees in for Georgia-based federal district courts, citing one candidate's approval of a Confederate battle emblem on the state flag, and another candidate's support of a controversial state voter ID law.

The Deal

For the full scoop on the bipartisan deal, see our earlier breakdown of the candidates by party. The short version is this: in exchange for the confirmation of Jill Pryor, who has been blocked previously by Georgia's Republican senators, to the Eleventh Circuit bench, the president would nominate a Republican-dominated bipartisan cast to fill the remaining vacancies on the Court of Appeals bench and the district courts.

The Objections

The civil rights leaders' objections are twofold. For one, they are upset about the lack of diversity on the bench; among the six nominees, only one is a racial minority, reports The Hill.

As for candidate-specific objections, Mark Cohen defended the state's voter ID law in court, while Michael Boggs, as a legislator, voted to keep a Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. Both were part of the deal, and are awaiting confirmation for the district court bench.

The Response

According to The Hill, when the rumored deal was leaked in September, a White House aide pointed out the obvious: that the "blue slips" process gave the GOP a virtual veto over any candidates and a lot of leverage in negotiations.

The aide also reiterated the statistics that the president released back in September, namely that 16 percent of his confirmed judges have been African-American, compared to only 8 percent for his immediate predecessor (President George W. Bush), and 16 percent for President Bill Clinton.

As we've noted before, at least on the Circuit Court of Appeals, out of eight current members, one is African-American, one was born in Cuba, and two are female. The remaining four are Caucasian males, one of whom is an octogenarian. (And the two current nominees? Both are female.)

There is also one recent vacancy, from Judge Joel Dubina's move to senior status, that has no pending nominee.

In other words, though the representation of African-Americans on the Court of Appeals' bench is not perfectly proportional to the population at large (25 percent for Eleventh Circuit states), with at least one seat left to fill, and a president with a track record of diverse nominations, those concerned about the racial makeup of the nominees should know that all hope is not yet lost.

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